Yearly Health Nag

pink-ribbonLong-time visitors to AAR After Hours may know what’s coming. Yes, it’s time for my yearly health nag about mammograms.

This past week, I went in for my yearly diagnostic mammogram, which marked my hitting the 10-year mark as a breast cancer survivor, which is a pretty big deal as far as I’m concerned.

Once again, I went through the usual worries and stress as the day for my mammogram got closer. And once again, I felt unbelievable relief and joy when the radiologist called me in after she examined the pictures to tell me that everything was fine, and I didn’t need to come back for another year.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve made it my personal mission to nag all of my female friends and relatives over the age of 40 to get a yearly mammogram. This past year, things got much more complicated when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that women not begin getting mammograms until they reach the age of 50.

This recommendation was extremely controversial. The American Cancer Society still recommends that women 40 and older get a yearly screening mammogram.  The National Cancer Institute lists a recommendation that women 40 and older get a screening mammogram every one to two years.

What does all this mean to me. On a personal note, if I had waited until after I was 50 to get my first mammogram, the breast cancer that they found would have had years more to grow. If I had to develop breast cancer, I’m at least grateful that it happened when the recommendations were more clear cut for women 40 and older.

What should this mean for women over 40? The best thing I can suggest is that you talk with your own doctor, and get her recommendations.From what I’ve heard and read, most doctors continue to recommend yearly mammograms for women over 40.

For me, I’m going to keep nagging my friends to get their yearly mammograms. I was lucky, and I want all of my friends and family to be lucky as well.

12 thoughts on “Yearly Health Nag

  1. Tee

    Nag away, LinnieGayl. Many women have regular checkups, but too many others don’t. I think the nagging should also include getting pelvic exams on a yearly basis. It’s better to spot something before it has had a chance to advance to a more difficult stage. We never want to hear about suspicious results, but that’s exactly why we go yearly for tests. The earlier something is caught, the earlier treatment can be sought and hopefully be successful. No reason to wait five or more years between gyno visits—too much can happen in the interim without our being aware.

  2. Tee

    Added note (wish we had the opportunity to edit these posts after submitting). Congratulations, LinnieGayl on your positive reports after the exam.

  3. carrie

    Congratulations on the clean bill of health!

    Might I add a yearly pap test to the list of tests women shouldn’t put off? My sister-in-law didn’t get one for several years, then turned up with cervical cancer. yearly tests would have caught it much earlier. Her prognosis is good, but she’s been through major surgery and rounds of chemo/radiation and side-effects that will last a lifetime.

    This time my yearly physical caught a spike in my usually lower than normal blood pressure. We’re not sure what has caused my blood pressure to suddenly be high, but it’s been caught early and I’m able to control it with diet, exercise, and diuretics. Much better to catch it early than to wait until bigger guns are needed to control it.

  4. LeeB.

    Congratulations LinnieGayl! And do continue to nag. Even though some women might find mammograms painful, it’s only for a few minutes and the results gained from the viewing the films can save one’s life.

  5. Pat

    Congratulations on your 10 year milestone. I have two sisters-in-law who were in their early 40′s when their mammograms showed an early stage breast cancer. They too have reached/passed their 10 year mark.

  6. CindyS

    Congratulations and thanks LinnieGayl. This year I turn 40 and I’ll be talking to my doc at my next visit about when we start.

    CindyS

  7. LinnieGayl

    Thanks, all!

    Tee and Carrie, excellent reminders about the need for other routine screening exams as well. Carrie, I’m glad the spike in your blood pressure was caught early as well. And you’re right, there are so many things, that if caught early, can be controlled or treated much more easily than if found later.

    Good job, ladies!

  8. xina

    Congratulations LinnieGayl. Wonderful news. I have to admit, that I am one of those that put off any kind of an exam for years. I finally went in a few months ago and had everything done. I’m a healthy person…at least I live a healthy life. I run on my treadmill or outside almost every day, eat very little red meat, load up on fruits and veggies, take the necessary vitamins. So imagine my surprise when I find out that I have high blood pressure! I am not overweight, do everything right and still, there it was. It’s under control now, but if I hadn’t found out, who knows what may have happened. As for the mammogram…I always thought it would be so painful, but it wasn’t at all. So…go get those checkups. I felt so much better afterward, just knowing the results.

  9. Tee

    xina, I’ve gone for regular checkups for a very long time now. By the way, that’s how my high blood pressure was found. My gyno said “get to your GP regarding it as soon as you can” and I did. It is under control also and I’m always grateful that he was so insistent that I take care of it.

    I’ve changed gynos because my regular one retired and I just had my first checkup by her last week. She wants something checked out that she found during the exam and I had the ultrasound done today. Hope everything is fine. But if it’s not, I know I’ve been as regular with the exams as I could be and hopefully anything found will be minor or early in the game.

  10. xina

    Good luck Tee! I hope everything is fine with you. As for my blood pressure, even though I do everything pretty much the right way, she thought it was an inherited condition.

  11. Meri

    Can I add to the nag? ALL women should go to a gynecological check every year. Especially if they are sexualy active. I’m 22 and my nagging is more about safe sex and anticonceptives, BUT most belive that youngwomen can´t have brest cancer. I usually use the examples of Kylie Minogue (who had cancer at 37) and Soraya( a colombian singer who died at 36 from brest cancer). I had a fibroadenoma(benign) myself at the age of 21 but the scare made me very conscious of this problem.

  12. LinnieGayl AAR Post author

    Xina, I’m so glad you went for a checkup! I know a number of women who lead very healthy lifestyles, but have developed high blood pressure. And no, mammograms really don’t hurt horribly. Yes, they can be a bit uncomfortable, but geesh, the alternative is so much worse. A momentary pinch is really worth it.

    Meri, that’s a fantastic reminder about getting a yearly gyno checkup, and also the reminder that young women can develop breast cancer.

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